Tag Archive | house

The TownHouse story


After!  After much work in only 10 days it looks great.

September ended with as much busy and crazy as it started.

As I mentioned we did not renew our tenants lease.  We expected some cleanup and we expected to have it rented for Nov 1, maybe with an early move-in mid-October.  I’m very glad I did not procrastinate because the day she was moving out I was there with the clipboard writing the to-do list.  Luckily I got a painter to start the next week and flooring scheduled for the following Tuesday and in the week and a day from her handing over the keys I;

  • replaced the dishwasher <- ended up doing this DIY with the help of vacation mom.  Together we have more courage and actually, we work well together.  We both laughed when one of us got sprayed in the face because we turned ON the water that was apparently already off…  We notice the thing the other doesn’t and it works out well. Only took 2 trips to the store to get the right part.
  • replaced the doorbell – how it broke nobody knows… Glad I had experience with installing my Ring earlier this season so I knew how absolutely simple a device it really is.  img_2486
  • I found a great light fixture with VacationMom at the re-home store and then had to fight with it for over an hour to get modified to fit the space. (it had a too long downrod) and as is common I’m finding with second hand, it didn’t quite have every bit and part needed for an install.  I got creative and a little Frankenstein and 3 trips to the store and finally it is up and looks great.  The old one is now in my garage because it really was not bad, it was just dated, and is now in my list of projects for future garden decoration.


    bever.  only answer.  Look at the difference in old (top) and new (bottom) paint, looks so fresh and clean and bright!

  • Found a perfect match to the door that was eaten by a beaver (only logical explanation), ordered it, bird-dogged it through the manufacturing system and actually got it 5 days post order instead of the 2 weeks they estimated.  Asking nicely does work!  I also figured out how to chisel out the hinges to match and now you can’t even tell what door is new.


    prehung door… well, it got me 50% of the way to hang it, chisel got me the other half

  • Replaced all the doorknobs/locks – because that is always what you do.  I can change a doorknob and deadbolt in under 15 min, faster if the packaging is already open.
  • Picked paint and picked it up.  This is fairly minor overall but it was harrowing because I had to go to my least favorite paint place and even though I gave myself 40min to get this done I was still nearly late to pick up the kids.
  • revarnished all the windowsills – a skill I picked up from fixing our old house last year.  I’m very glad to have painted wood in this house.
  • Picked carpet!  easiest part but I’m mentioning it because I am proud I talked the sales guy down $500 on the price.  The install guys were really nice and also fast, the entire place was done by 4pm.
  • Purchased and installed roller shades.  Again, something that is easier than I expected but also a bit of a pain.
  • Replaced the patio door handle.  These are not standard by the way, took 2 trips to find the right one even with detailed measurements and pictures.  Once I had it, it was a fast job, probably because of all my deadbolt training over the years.
  • Installed a blind on the front window.  Easy once you figure out the clippies and what way goes up.
  • Installed a shower head because a new one was faster than cleaning the old one
  • Last but not least, I scrubbed and scrubbed.  Every door, every switch, the tub was tragic but now much less so, counters, floors, fridge…  She actually left it ‘ok’ but I wanted it to look good.  There was less that 1 trash can full of stuff to put out and a desk was left behind but the new family seems ok to keep it.

That is a long list and I got that done around kid duties, Homecoming week, and I even managed a workout and my own house didn’t devolve into chaos for lack of attention.  The hard work paid off though because upon listing we got a plethora of applicants and my top pick looked at it on Sept 27th and called me that night to take it.  It was a frantic rush at the end because they ended up arriving a day before I expected but I had been trying to be done early anyway so the last hour was frantic but enough and all weekend it felt great to have it off my plate.  When I got rent on Oct 1 with no issues or delays or stories or anything it was better than my birthday!  We didn’t get any rent for September so I’m double happy to see the cash flow after the spending to rehab in the month.

The rental home experience is probably different for everyone, I’ve gotten a ton of hands-on experience as well as a network of professionals I can call on.  The plumbing and electrical I’m doing is more because there is a lack of professionals, but, it also isn’t as hard as it seems if you go step by step and have a pocket computer at hand to look up all the things.  We have been truly lucky with tenants, even the ‘worst’ one was not all that bad.  I tell myself that she honestly saved some sanity because the paint and carpet should have been done a year ago but I was mid move then and had zero energy for the project and she didn’t care about paint or carpet (should have been a sign!) but she did pay rent 13 of 14 months and that counts for a lot.

This week the kids had off Monday so we were lazy around the house and yesterday I got to all the things that had been on hold during the project.  Today I burned nearly the whole day on computer things but October bills are paid, odd things are handled and/or asked about and I’m moving on to the next big set of projects – garden shed and driveway expansion.  Both are started and both are stalled but now both are going to get some special attention and I hope to have progress on them soon.

spring is happening

I think I’m solar powered.  Something about actual sunlight and I want to do more.  It is also bright out now until nearly 7pm and gaining every day, at our peak, we are light(ish) until nearly 10 and longer days just feel like, well, longer days.  The unfortunate thing is I forget to cook dinner until its ‘getting dark’, it is genetic, my mom did the same and I’m still alive so I am sure they will survive.  Anyway, we have been doing a lot and I’m planning more so here is a summary so far.

Niamh’s friend party was a HUGE success.  I say huge because 5 more people than expected came and it was pretty crazy here.  They all had fun and they ran and screamed and semi-participated in organized activities.  I’m glad I vetoed the pinata because getting them all together to do anything was not easy.  We did all sing together for cake, they did all eat together (more or less).  I was stressed for a minute that I didn’t have seating for 16+ anywhere but they actually adapted really well.  They just pulled stools around and nooked inbetween and one kid stood and one kid sat in a baby chair and somehow they didn’t notice that I didn’t have ‘proper’ seating for all.  The other odd win was a game I nearly cut; ‘let’s make a llama’.  I got a 25 pack of little playdoh and printed out a paper with a bunch of llama pictures and everyone got to make a little sculpture and put it in a cupcake wrapper with their name on the bottom and Niamh picked her favorite for a prize.  Given age (11) I was surprised how many of them really really enjoyed a playdoh project.  This was modeled after a baby shower game ‘make a baby’ but you can put anything as the sculpture goal and they will have fun.

The added bonus of a party is the house gets really clean so Sunday we didn’t have much to do but recover.  By later afternoon we were ready for something and Niamh has been bugging me to run with her.  I like running solo, technically for a while there I ran to be not with them, but then again, having a thing that is good for us, free, and something we can do ‘forever’ is a good thing so group runs have been on my list for a while.  Sunday it came true in such a lovely way.  Niamh and Zoe and I ran and Fiona biked and we actually kept a good pace and got to the park nearby and then they played and we ran back again.  For a total of 2 miles and about an hour (including playtime) it was a perfect thing for our first good spring day.  I have high hopes of doing this again sometime soon.

Over the winter each time we had to shovel snow off our hot tub, we started thinking of outdoor patio cover solutions.  We have gone through a few options and have a budget in mind and today we meet with a contractor to talk about what will work here.  This may be a multi-year process or we might get it done sooner.  Contractors are busy too so we might have to decide if we want to wait or DIY.  It is up in the air but the project that is happening now.

Another discovery about our land is that water settles in far too wide an area, we need a smaller deeper spot for it to go.  We have talked with the builder and as soon as the ground is ‘right’ we are digging a pond/drainage so I’m researching rain garden v pond.  Both have pros and cons really but we need to do something because right now our front yard is a large shallow lake far too often.

Next up is a garden.  This is more construction and work for who knows what return but #1 really really wants one and based on the number of deer hoof prints we see if tomatoes and beans are to have any chance at all we need to build a fence.  I’m researching fenced gardens and you can go all out with them, or, just string up chicken wire…  we will have to see what we have time and energy for.

Easter is sneaking up on us too.  Today I squared away egg hunt plans and baskets are under control but the rest of the weekend is still unplanned.  Not having family or really a good church community makes religious holidays difficult.  Anything will be better than last year where we cleaned and painted in house selling prep so there is nowhere to go but up.

That is all for now, time to get out there and do the running around town.  Need to pick up a tuned up bike and sign for taxes and grocery shop etc etc etc.  Winter hibernation is officially over.

Learning about board stewardship

The past two days I’ve been in an intensive crash course on how to be a school board member.  Given I have a ton of house guests coming this weekend it was not optimal timing but I am very glad I went.


There was one quote that truly resonated; “being on a school board is never what you expected”.  I’m getting the impression that is very true.  In some ways I think it will be easier, I was expecting to do more ‘work’ and really, the board is supposed to keep a broad view, an eye on goals and hold the superintendent and staff accountable.  I vaguely thought it would be like the Parent Teacher Organization supersized.

After many many hours of seminars, there was really nothing super NEW or truly surprising but it was an exercise in gaining more clarity.  Like the difference between learning algebra and then seeing why algebra exists in higher math.  Now I see much more clearly the role a board needs to play.  Seeing is one thing, the next step is doing.

The negative note for the situation though is that I may have irrevocably traded in my ‘cool helpful parent’ role in my kid’s school.  I joined the board to have a positive involvement in their lives and I might have just created a situation where their teachers will never quite know how to deal with me.  If any teacher is reading this; my plan is to do my very very best to be a normal mom when in the schools for my kids and only wear the board hat if asked.  By the way, the board seems to have very few magical powers so I can’t say I’ll be able to pull out any rabbits for anyone.


Last week was very very busy and I hardly got near my computer to say what was going on in life.  It was the first week of the winter schedule with choir and gymnastics and while all the children love their respective activities they are across town from each other and at nearly the same time.  It was also the week I got officially sworn onto the board so that was a fun event.  Inbetween I actually got myself to the gym, and, we dove into the final battle with the boxes by infiltrating the storage room stronghold.  I also managed to get our massive window covered in curtains and I can’t seem to take a good picture of it but it’s done.  It does cut down on the crazy loudness of the room and the sun in the face by TV situation some minor parties in the house have been disgruntled by.  Personally, I liked to see their solutions, you can’t not laugh at them sitting with pillows, blankets, or stuffed animals balanced on their heads to block the sun in their eyes.  Life didn’t slow down on the weekend and this week made last week look easy because I had to call in my support team to help with the kid needs while I went and drank from the firehose of learning.

It is a great sort of busy and I feel like this is going to be a good phase of life.  Great start to 2019.

Day 125

It was a coin flip to either talk about our epic journey back to MN, or, check in on the house.  For the record, we arrived on Sunday around 6 and after dinner, we went to go check the house because I could not wait longer!

Current Status; We have PAINT.  The painful decisions of paint color and location made with consults both near and far turned out great.  The stairs are also in! Trim and cabinets continue to get installed/finished.  Flooring prep work underway. (me) 15 of 27 lights procured, chosen exterior stone, doors, and siding finally confirmed for the 4th time

Next; (me) buy more light fixtures, knobs for all the things (81 total).  (them) floors, cabinet install finish, get the driveway and patio soon and all the fixtures come soon.

Status; 775 of 1000 – still no toilets! paint and stairs make a big impact but the fun finishes are coming soon.


We got 3 colors included in our quote, that is actually a decent number when you think about a more monochrome and cohesive design style.  We choose Agreeable Gray, Dover White, and Navy for our main floor and public spaces upstairs and each of us choose a bedroom color.  It was $100 per color but it was also a way for the kids to really love the move and be ‘ok’ with all the chaos coming in their near future.  My designer friend advised taking their choice and subtracting 2 numbers to get a lighter tone and I only had to do that for Niamh – she went for a really really strong pink but it looks much better two shades lighter.


Fiona actually really liked the color I choose for my room ‘secure blue’ so in her opinion she picked our room color and I’m ok with her thinking that since it saved $100, and, I obviously like the color. img_7148

Somehow I didn’t get a picture of the front hall in navy but it came out very sharp with the white trim.  I also neglected to take pictures of the vast spaces now painted gray or white but I did get a close up of the stain color “Koa” chosen half because we wanted it to stand out against our medium dark floors and half because it reminds me of Hawaii.


btw.  that is Agreeable Gray in the background

We also got back on track with selections and trecked up to the stone showroom to choose our exterior stone and address stone.  It was an easy decision because thanks to my designer friend I actually have a good idea of what to do with the exterior.  In brief; pick one color and one accent and stick to it – do not go crazy with all the color options of siding. img_7150

Finally, it is hard to take pictures of stairs but here is what I could do.  Imagine them without protective paper.


more agreeable gray and in the center of the picture you can see a corner of the navy hall.  Top right you see Dover White in the loft area

I’m getting a little tired of the process, the builders work is great but their system is very scattered and I’m constantly following up or reconfirming something I thought was set.  The story of the siding is annoying and long and I hope ends well, we will see…  There is one vendor I just don’t like at this point because she is so disorganized but small price to pay for the amount of custom work we are getting.  I’ll be on top of them again since I’m back and other than parenting, a 1-weekend camping trip and packing this house up, I’ve got nothing else to focus on.


Day 102

We have cabinets!

And doors!

I also picked colors and fingers crossed they will look good.

I’m going to ny so no pictures for a week but by the time I’m back I expect siding and maybe even flooring. There was a pile of wood that will become stairs so fingers crossed! 9 weeks to move in, the list is still long but working through it.

House day 40-49

Current status;  As of yesterday we have framing and floor and the start to plumbing and hvac

Next; Plumbing for sure because they somehow have to connect all our bathrooms to water etc and they are not all neatly stacked so they get first dibs on the between floor real estate.  In an epic battle for limited space, the HVAC is sneaking around between the floors and walls too.  Electric goes ‘last’ because wires are skinny and they can snake around the other systems.

Status; 500 of 1000 We really might be half way there!  The big things are well in hand but I know the devil is in the details.


Last week was a personal black hole where I poured effort in and got not much out.  That never makes me feel good so I try and huddle up and don’t do things like blog.  Fortunately, the builders seem happy and they are chugging right along.  Before I get to the pictures – funny story time!

…. During showings, I like to go visit the new house.  Saturday I had the kids and we drove over there and we saw 2 cars, one parked on the street and the other pulled up to the garage.  I warned the kids that maybe someone was working and we get in there and given that there is no sheetrock it was pretty easy to spot the young couple and walrus of a man.  None of them looked like inspectors or electricians…  There is no containing 3 kids so they swarm away to see what was new since last time (a lot for them, it had been a week) and I go over and say “Hi! are you here for the builders?” and they say “No, this home is listed on the MLS, we are looking at it”.  I glance at the paper in their hand that if they READ it carefully said that the listing was for a ‘build to suit’ and even if they couldn’t read, the only resemblance to the house they were standing in and the house in the picture was that it has walls, door, windows and a roof (basically nothing else was the same), so, I told them (cheerfully) “oh, you probably are one lot off, that listing is for the other open lot next door and I pointed at the very prominant ‘for sale’ sign on the cornfield to our left.  The walrus insisted “Well it is listed…” but he trailed off in the face of actual reality.  The women, who was super cute in a hipster sort of way remarked that “I really liked it, great land and I love all the bedrooms upstairs; when it is finished it would be totally worth the price!”  Given that we had the same ‘build to suit’ listing in hand 6 months ago I knew the answer to this question but I asked anyway “so, how much is it listed for?” Walrus replied “$xxx” and that is a perfectly good price for the house shown in the picture that is HALF the size of the one we are building so I burst her bubble and said “oh sorry, this house is $xyz x2, and, we are already buying it – the lot next door though is pretty nice and our builders are great….”  As dim understanding crossed her eyes that no, you can’t get that much house for that much money in this area she gave a smile and a wan goodbye and left with her crushed dreams trailing behind.  Husband was silent and Walrus just huffed a little and they wandered off out the house.  Maybe they looked at the field next door?  Maybe not.

During all that, the girls have found their favorite feature of house building – the giant pile of dirt in the yard.  They love it, they dig, they climb, they have adventurous stories and I easily spent the hour poking around the new developments and taking pictures for future reference of where studs are and where vents are etc.




upstairs venting


I also had to take a picture of this – I’m not sure if I should be scared that there are so many little ‘corrections’ noted around the house, or, impressed that someone is checking all these things out and highlighting them.  I’m going to go with impressed (and amused, there is a certain dry humor in some of the notes…)


As promised, here is the framing – it is semi hard to explain much because it is mostly a sea of 2x4s in a picture but here is one (I won’t bore you with them all)



standing in the garage entry to the house – just in front of me is the mud room, to the left is Lars office, other side of the ‘red’ wall is the kitchen, (unseen) to the right is my office and a 1/2 bath. 


And finally, a different view of the house, this is from the back yard.  That long blank wall is going to need ‘something’ Any suggestions?  The yard is also very very NOT private – funny, when it was full of corn taller than I was we didn’t notice – so also looking for privacy suggestions for between the house and the road (behind me).